Titus Andronicus

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Themes and Colors
Revenge Theme Icon
Violence and Justice Theme Icon
Children Theme Icon
Rome, Romans, and Barbarians Theme Icon
Grief and Mourning Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Titus Andronicus, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Titus Andronicus is an example of the genre of drama called revenge tragedy (another, very different, example is Shakespeare’s Hamlet), so it is no surprise that revenge is central to the play. The play unfolds as a series of acts of revenge that plunge the characters into a spiral of eye-for-eye and tooth-for-tooth violence, summed up well by Lucius: “There’s meed for meed, death for a deadly deed.” But, as the play demonstrates…

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In addition to revenge, Shakespeare pushes another common aspect of tragic drama to its limits: violence. Not only do characters die in Titus Andronicus, but children are murdered in front of their parents (Tamora’s oldest son), Lavinia is raped and disfigured horribly, Titus has his hand cut off, and—in the final act of the play—Titus feeds Tamora’s own children to her. In the play, Shakespeare stretches the boundaries of what can be represented…

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Children and lineage (the importance of, on the one hand, begetting children to be heirs and, on the other hand, being able to trace one’s descent from a family line), especially sons and male lineage, are extremely important in the cultural world of ancient Rome that Shakespeare constructs in Titus Andronicus. In the first scene of the play, lineage determines who will be the next emperor of Rome (Saturninus). By contrast, Aaron’s

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The dissolution of the Andronicus family and the dismemberment of various bodies (Lavinia’s, Titus’, Demetrius’, and Chiron’s) takes place against the background of a Rome that is itself falling apart. When encouraging Titus to become emperor, Marcus tells him to “set a head on headless Rome” and, near the end of the play, compares Rome to “broken limbs” that must be reformed “into one body.” The disfigurement of individual bodies…

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If one consequence of the numerous deaths and violent acts of the play is revenge, the other is mourning. As characters experience ever-increasing pains over the course of the play, they are plunged deeper and deeper into grief—especially Titus. The repeated scenes of grieving beg the question of whether such lamentation is actually worth anything or is simply useless. In Act 3, Scene 1, Lucius tells Titus that he “lament[s] in vain,” but Titus…

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